Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 24, 2018

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Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 24, 2018

On October 24, 1733, the Georgia trustees ordered a ship to Rotterdam to pick up a group of Lutherans expelled from Salzburg, Austria, and then send the Salzburgers to Georgia.

On October 24, 1775, Lord John Murray Dunmore, British Governor of Virginia, ordered the British fleet to attack Norfolk, VA.

On October 24, 1790, the Rev. John Wesley wrote the last entry in his journal, which he began keeping on October 14, 1735.

The first American “Unknown Soldier” was chosen on October 24, 1921 in Chalons-sur-Marne, France.

Bearing the inscription “An Unknown American who gave his life in the World War,” the chosen casket traveled to Paris and then to Le Havre, France, where it would board the cruiser Olympia for the voyage across the Atlantic. Once back in the United States, the Unknown Soldier was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, near Washington, D.C.

The Charter of the United Nations took effect on October 24, 1945.

On October 24, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower pledged the United States’ support for the South Vietnam government led by President Ngo Dinh Diem.

On October 24, 1976, Newsweek released a poll showing Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter leading President Gerald Ford in 24 states, with a combined 308 electoral voters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Morning Fix

Total early ballots cast: 747,986

Governor Nathan Deal announced yesterday that he will call a special legislative session after the November elections.

Gov. Nathan Deal today notified House Speaker David Ralston and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle that he plans to call for a special legislative session of the Georgia General Assembly. The special session is set to convene on Tuesday, Nov. 13.

“Georgia was severely impacted by Hurricane Michael and many communities across our state sustained heavy financial losses,” said Deal. “In response, I will ask the General Assembly to take immediate action and lead the way in spurring rapid economic recovery for southwest Georgia communities. Our state budget also needs to be amended to ensure that we adequately cover our obligations. I hope to work quickly with the General Assembly in the coming days to provide support to the Georgia communities that need it most.”

The regular session of the 2018 General Assembly adjourned sine die on March 29, 2018. Article V, Section II, Paragraph VII of the Constitution of the State of Georgia grants the governor the power to convene a special session of the General Assembly.

Totally unconfirmed and wildly speculative rumors have suggested that Amazon incentives may also be part of the special session.

From the AJC:

Deal made the special session announcement two weeks before heated midterm elections in which his successor — either Republican Brian Kemp or Democrat Stacey Abrams — will be chosen. The special session will begin a week after the election and is expected to last at least five days.

Chris Riley, the governor’s chief of staff, said the state tab for the cleanup will be in the neighborhood of $100 million, including about $70 million just for debris removal. The state will pay part of local government costs, including overtime for staffers who worked long hours during and after the storm.

“It’s a pretty severe financial impact, and we want members to vote on it,” Riley said. “We just don’t have the money in their (agency) budgets to cover these costs.”

Deal has squirreled away $2.5 billion in state reserves, but Riley said that money will be left for the next governor. Instead, Riley said, the state will use excess tax money that has come in so far this year, in the same way the General Assembly typically approves a midyear budget in the spring to cover new costs during the fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The session is being called, he said, because the midyear budget typically isn’t approved until February or March, “and bills need to be paid now” to cover personnel overtime, contractors and other storm-related costs. The state will have a better estimate of the cost by the time the session begins, he added.

“We owe it to the citizens and local governments impacted by Hurricane Michael to continue supporting their recovery efforts,” he said in a statement. “As such, we will need to amend our FY 2019 budget to fund the work ahead.” [said House Speaker David Ralston].

Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said: “The majority caucus and I support this session and believe it is vital in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. Agriculture is a major player in our state’s economy, and right now our farmers need our assistance more than ever.”

The governor has also promised a special session if Amazon names Georgia as a finalist for its second headquarters. Riley said the state’s pursuit of the tech giant’s $5 billion campus did not factor into the decision and will not be a part of the legislative agenda.

Gov. Deal spoke in Dalton about having represented the area in elected office for 25 years, according to the Dalton Daily Citizen.

Deal noted that when he came into office in January 2011 the state was still feeling the impact of the Great Recession.

“Many businesses had closed,” he said. “The state had cut spending tremendously.”

He noted that the state had spent down its “rainy day” fund to just $160 million, enough to cover only two days of spending. He said that as he leaves office that reserve fund has been built up to more than $2.5 billion.

During Deal’s term in office, the state added 750,000 new non-government jobs and the unemployment rate has fallen to 3.8 percent from 10.6 percent.

Deal also touted the Appalachian Regional Port, which opened this summer in northern Murray County and links by rail to the Port of Savannah.

Carpet and Rug Institute President Joe Yarbrough announced that organization will be endowing a scholarship in Deal’s name at Georgia Northwestern Technical College.

“He has been a great governor,” Yarbrough said. “I believe history will regard him as one of our state’s greatest governors. I personally feel he has been our state’s greatest governor.”

Overdose deaths are leveling-off at the national level, said US HHS Secretary Alex Azar, according to the Statesboro Herald.

“We are so far from the end of the epidemic, but we are perhaps, at the end of the beginning,” Azar said at a health care event sponsored by the Milken Institute think tank.

Confronting the opioid epidemic has been the rare issue uniting Republicans and Democrats in a politically divided nation. A bill providing major funding for treatment was passed under former President Barack Obama. More money followed earlier this year under President Donald Trump. And tomorrow Trump is expected to sign bipartisan legislation passed this month that increases access to treatment, among other steps.

More than 70,000 people died of drug overdoses last year, according to preliminary numbers released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this summer— a 10 percent increase from 2016. Health and Human Services — the department Azar heads — is playing a central role in the government’s response.

The Georgia Department of Insurance estimates that insured losses from Hurricane Michael could exceed $250 million dollars, according to Insurance Journal.

Pecan farmers are beginning to tally their losses from Hurricane Michael, according to the Albany Herald.

Georgia’s pecan industry was forever changed by Hurricane Michael, according to University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Pecan Specialist Lenny Wells.

In Dougherty, Lee and Mitchell counties, which produce 30 percent of Georgia’s pecan crop, Wells estimates that 30-40 percent of the pecan trees were destroyed.

“Pretty much every orchard in the state has had damage of some kind,” Wells said. “We’re seeing limbs down, trees down, trees split. Under all of that are good nuts that have blown out of the trees.”

Overall, Wells said he believes Georgia lost half of this year’s pecan crop — a $100 million loss from this year’s crop plus $260 million in lost trees.

Republican Brian Kemp and his Democratic opponent met in a televised debate last night, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The two major-party candidates for Georgia governor split early on the question of in-state college tuition rates for young people who were brought to the United States illegally as children and who have temporary protection from deportation.

“I’ve been running my whole campaign on putting Georgians first,” said Kemp, adding that “free” tuition for such students is the wrong position.

Abrams said she supports in-state tuition rates for such students, and Georgia has to take every chance to improve its economy and fill in-demand jobs.

Politicos across the country are watching as Democrats are making a coordinated charge on the highest offices in Georgia, which have been held by Republicans for more than a decade. GOP candidates themselves have responded by coordinating their campaigning with each other more than in recent years.

But if several years’ worth of state Legislature elections are any indicator, the state’s not as reliably red as it once was. As Republicans watch their margins decline in former strongholds like Cobb and Gwinnett counties, that makes turnout among the base as important a strategy for Republicans as for Democrats.

From AccessWDUN:

Disputes over voting access took center stage at the debate, highlighting Abrams’ historic bid to become the first black female governor in American history and the long-simmering politics of race in the Deep South. Kemp, who is white, continued to fend off charges that he’s using his position as Georgia secretary of state to make it harder for minority voters to cast ballots.

Abrams said Kemp’s record as secretary of state “causes great concern” and pointed to the release of voter data under Kemp’s watch and the state’s “exact match’” voter registration system, which has left tens of thousands of voter registrations “pending” due to inconsistencies.

Kemp said accusations that he was suppressing the vote were “totally untrue.’”

“I’ve staked the integrity of my whole career on the duty that I have as secretary of state. I have always fulfilled and followed the laws of our state and I’ll continue to do that,” Kemp said.

Kemp said his record included making it “easy to vote and hard to cheat” in Georgia.

He fired back, citing a recent video clip in which Abrams seems to say that “undocumented” immigrants were part of her coalition.

“Why are you encouraging people to break the law to vote for you?” Kemp asked.

Democrat Stacey Abrams spoke about her burning of the Georgia flag at the State Capitol in 1992, according to the Statesboro Herald.

Abrams’ role in that flag-burning protest resurfaced in The New York Times on Monday, the eve of her first debate against Republican Brian Kemp. The paper cited a June 1992 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article; a caption for the accompanying photo identifies Abrams as a woman standing with her arms crossed, watching three other protesters burn the flag.

Abrams’ spokeswoman Abigail Collazo said Abrams was involved in a “permitted, peaceful protest against the Confederate emblem in the flag” while a student at Spelman College in Atlanta in 1992.

“During Abrams’ college years, Georgia was at a crossroads, struggling with how to overcome racially divisive issues, including symbols of the Confederacy, the sharpest of which was the inclusion of the Confederate emblem in the Georgia state flag,” Collazo said.

Abrams is seeking to become the first black female governor of any state. Kemp, who also is overseeing the election as Georgia’s secretary of state, has portrayed her as “too extreme for Georgia.” He’s said the race is a battle for the very “soul” of the state.

After the white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, Abrams advocated for the removal of a massive cliff-side carving on Stone Mountain near Atlanta, the largest Confederate monument anywhere. Protesters who consider such monuments to be symbols of Southern heritage have since targeted her at campaign stops across Georgia.

A federal judge is considering allegations of too many rejected absentee ballots, according to the Gainesville Times.

Two separate lawsuits allege election officials are improperly rejecting absentee ballots and absentee ballot applications without first giving voters an opportunity to dispute a finding of a mismatched signature. One of the lawsuits also challenges the rejection of absentee ballots because of what it calls technical errors, like writing the current year in a space designated for the voter’s birth year or signing on the wrong line.

State and county officials say they’re handling the ballots and applications the same way they have for at least two decades and the lawsuits were sparked by news coverage of rejections in Gwinnett County.

U.S. District Judge Leigh May heard arguments from both sides Tuesday and said she will likely focus on the signature mismatch issue in an order issued in the coming days.

In addition to suing Kemp, both lawsuits also singled out Gwinnett County, saying that information provided by Kemp’s office showed that the populous, majority-minority county accounts for a disproportionate number of the rejections.

Cristina Correia, a lawyer for the state, said some counties have not entered their data into the secretary of state’s system. Attorney Bruce Brown, who filed one of the lawsuits, seized on that information, saying the problem may be much bigger than it seems if some of the counties that showed no rejections actually hadn’t reported their numbers.

Republican Congressman Rick Allen (R-Augusta) met his Democratic challenger in a public forum yesterday, according to the Augusta Chronicle. You can watch the debate as it was livecast on Facebook.

State Representative Jeff Jones (R-St. Simons Island) is working on legislation to open oyster cultivation on the Georgia Coast, according to The Brunswick News.

“As this whole thing has begun to evolve, we’ve had contacts from a number of the … distributors throughout the state who are anxious to see us deliver quality, farm-raised oysters to the restaurant industry on a 12-month a year basis,” Jones said. “But, we’re going to need to bring the spat in from out of state. Quite frankly, there is not enough oyster hatchery facility or capacity currently in the state to be able to service what we believe will be a very good and strong industry.”

Jones said the state Department of Natural Resources’ Coastal Resources Division is going to need to hire at least three new staffers to kick off the oyster cultivation process, but he said there is money already set aside that can be used for these jobs.

“So, we’ve got legislation in process, got the full support of (DNR), we’ve got funding lined up, and we have market demand that’s already been expressed by folks such as Inland Seafood, a big seafood distributor out of Atlanta,” Jones said. “All the elements of this are coming together in an incredibly smooth fashion. And so for me, I more or less stumbled into this because of all the work done by the various folks involved in the industry.

“Actually, it was a reporter from The Brunswick News that contacted me three or four months ago — whenever that was — doing an article about why oysters haven’t taken off in the state of Georgia. And that piqued my interest enough that I jumped into that process, and again, we brought it to where we are today.”

The Valdosta Daily Times spoke to some locals about the midterm elections.

Much of the population growth in Whitfield County, Georgia, has been fueled by an influx of Hispanic workers.

The county’s population has almost doubled during the past 48 years. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county had an estimated population of 104,658 in 2017, up from 55,108 in 1970.

Dalton, Georgia, the largest city and county seat of Whitfield County, has seen its population grow almost as fast.

The Hispanic workers, many of them immigrants, are employed by floor-covering mills. The Hispanic population rose from the low single digits to an estimated 49 percent of the 2017 population of Dalton and 35.5 percent of the county population.

Bibb County Superior Court Chief Judge Edgar W. Ennis Jr. dismissed a lawsuit seeking to change a rezoning that would allow an abortion clinic, according to the Macon Telegraph.

The Northeastern Judicial Circuit Victim-Witness Assistance Program hosted a program in Gainesville with members of the Georgia State Board of Pardons & Paroles, according to the Gainesville Times.

Victims were allowed to meet with and make statements to the State Board of Pardons and Paroles at the event at Lakewood Baptist Church in Gainesville.

Victim impact statements are part of the record considered by parole board members when deciding an offender’s potential parole.

It was the first time the event was held in Hall County. It’s been held 30 times around the state since 2006.

Two members of the board, David Herring and James Mills, are from Hall County. All five members were in attendance Tuesday.

The board met with more than 135 crime victims and added information to 79 case files.

“It is the goal of the parole board to leave no victim in the dark, but to include the victims in every consideration where a victim wants to be considered,” said board chairman Terry Barnard.

Rome citizens will see higher bills for garbage pickup, according to the Rome News-Tribune.

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